In 2020, DTP student Conor John (Psychology, Cardiff University) completed an internship with the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority (BBNPA). Conor worked with his hosts to find ways to undertake the internship whilst adhering to COVID restrictions. He found the internship experience beneficial. “I have no intention on staying in academia and this internship has shown me how much more impact can be had outside of academia, as well as the potential for better job security and financial stability”. Here are Conor’s reflections on the experience.
I worked with the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority to tackle issues associated with over-subscribed tourist hot-spots. I was tasked with liaising with some of the team members who work on visitor management in Waterfalls Country to reduce dog fouling and illegal parking by developing signage and interpretation based on behaviour change science.
I expected to be able to go and work on-site, conducting monitoring of sites for environmentally damaging behaviours in order to develop targeted interventions and to test the effectiveness of the interventions. I also expected to work on some video-production content with the organisation.
Due to COVID-19 and the Nationwide lockdown, it was not possible to conduct any fieldwork or site monitoring. Visitor numbers decreased dramatically in the initial lockdown period as the BBNPA closed car parks and paths in order to comply with lockdown rules. The BBNPA provided different tasks to do instead, preparing for the end of lockdown and the expected rise in visitors to waterfall country. I worked on producing signage and discussed with visitor management staff who work in waterfall country the impact that the sudden increase in visitors may have on the area and how best to tackle it.
Testing the effectiveness of the interventions was not possible due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, the project did lead to the production of signage which was used in waterfall country to help tackle the huge rise in visitors that occurred as restrictions during Lockdown 1 were reduced. It is hoped that with easing of restrictions that some form of testing of the interventions can take place.
The BBNPA are the collaborative partner for my PhD and I continue to have a strong relationship with my hosts…..I intend to work with the BBNPA to boost their behavioural messaging for the foreseeable future.
The internship helped me tackle similar problems to the one’s I investigate in my PhD work, but with more flexibility to work on the deeper impact, and the fine details, as I was free of academic constraints. I’ve improved interpersonal skills, as I have had to work remotely and on tasks over video-call.
I have no intention on staying in academia and this internship has shown me how much more impact can be had outside of academia, as well as the potential for better job security and financial stability.
I thank the BBNPA for being great hosts and for the collaboration during both my PhD and the internship.